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Thread: Charles Fort and Schneck

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2015

    Charles Fort and Schneck

    If you want to learn you must question and observe. Charles Fort brought many strange and outright weird things to the minds of people who were willing to open their minds and try to find answers, I recall having to find answers for every one of his facts. Raining reptiles and all the rest, it was 'fun'.

    "Robert Damon Schneck is, in my view, today’s most literate and discriminating historian of Fortean phenomena. By “Fortean” I am referring to the legendary historian of the weird Charles Fort (1874-1932), who taught us to take a second look at claims of strange airships, marauding monsters, and frogs falling from the sky.

    Schneck’s career in the shadow regions is about to receive the luminescence of the public spotlight. This October Dimension Films releases its Halloween horror flick The Bye Bye Man, based on a true story from Schneck’s cult classic of twisted history, The President’s Vampire. The Bye Bye Man recounts what happened in the winter of 1990 when a group of bored Wisconsin grad students began playing around with a Ouija Board. Let’s just say things went badly. Very, very badly.

    On Thursday, February 25th, I am hosting Schneck for an evening dialogue at Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum – the first in my new series of monthly dialogues with masters of the strange, called Morbid ACADEMY.

    Below are five questions for the man who dares venture where angels fear to tread…

    1.What’s the truly weirdest thing you’ve ever investigated?

    I can’t pick a “truly weirdest,” but one of my favorites involved a young man who discovered a chemical that brought the dead back to life and restored the body, no matter what its condition. Then he built a machine with spring-driven knives and axes, climbed inside, and was torn apart. A note instructed those who found his remains to sprinkle the pieces with his resurrecting agent, but it wasn’t done, or didn’t work. The story turned out to be a newspaper hoax, but the young man was real, and died of consumption several years later.

    2.Have you ever been burned by a hoaxer or an unreliable source?

    The ringmaster of a flea circus lied to me, claiming to use genuine fleas, when his performances actually involved magic tricks. I was taken in and am embarrassed to say that I repeated his claim in print. When it comes to the strange-but-true, however, hoaxes don’t bother me. Trying to figure out, “Why was this claim made?” or, more importantly, “Why was it believed?” can reveal a great deal about the time and place. People who get angry at hoaxers are under the delusion that their favorite mystery is going to be solved someday, or that the reputation of their “field” has been sullied.

    3.What person or book has been the biggest influence on your work in the last five years?

    I Fought the Apemen of Mt. St. Helens, a 22-page, booklet self-published by Fred and Raymond Beck in 1967. I Fought the Apemen concerns a group of miners who were driven from their mountain cabin by hairy giants in 1924, a story that became a local legend and led to the site being named “Ape Canyon.” The Becks cover all this in a few pages, with most of the work dedicated to the authors’ mystical beliefs, Fred’s encounters with otherworldly beings, how the men used sťances to contact spirits that revealed gold deposits, and the spiritual value of searching for Bigfoot and studying flying saucers. It offers a kind of folk metaphysics, shows how the practice of ancient forms of magic continued in the 20th century and, on a practical level, made me aware of “fringe” literature’s potential for providing interesting material. Since I Fought the Ape Men, I have written about a bizarre “Bible” whose author was beheaded, and his family murdered, in Detroit in 1929, while my next article concerns a woman who wrote a booklet in which she argues that the God of the Bible is actually Satan, then shot and killed her landlady to publicize the work.

    4. If you had one million dollars to dedicate to any one Fortean investigation, where would you spend the money?

    It hasn’t been fully worked out, but a friend of mine and I have an idea for deliberately designing and building a haunted house. Several approaches have been floated, including studying known haunted houses and seeing if there is something in their physical makeup (e.g., architecture, layout, material) that could be responsible for causing certain phenomena. Then there is the approach I favor, which would incorporate as many traditional beliefs about the causes of hauntings from as many eras and cultures as possible (e.g., building on land where some horrific event occurred, using materials from the scenes of murders and suicides, particular places, etc.). It could also be done using theories that posit a connection between paranormal phenomena and states of transition, or the creation of conditions such as standing waves, in which people experience phenomena resembling hauntings.

    5.Do you believe in ghosts?

    I’ve never met one, and don’t know what they are, but I do believe in ghosts."
    I think I explain what ghosts are.
    Last edited by R_Baird; 02-15-2016 at 06:35 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    The SkepticsDictionary has this to say about Charles Fort.

    "Charles Fort (1874-1932) fancied himself a true skeptic, one who opposes all forms of dogmatism, believes nothing, and does not take a position on anything. He (Charles Fort, ca. 1920) claimed to be an "intermediatist," one who believes nothing is real and nothing is unreal, that "all phenomena are approximations one way or the other between realness and unrealness." Actually, he was an anti-dogmatist who collected weird and bizarre stories.

    Fort spent a good part of his adult life in the New York City public library examining newspapers, magazines, and scientific journals. He was looking for accounts of anything weird or mysterious which didn't fit with current scientific theories. He collected accounts of frogs and other strange objects raining from the sky, UFOs, ghosts, spontaneous human combustion, the stigmata, psychic abilities, etc. He published four collections of weird tales and anomalies during his lifetime: Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), Lo! (1931), and Wild Talents (1932). In these works, he does not seem interested in questioning the reliability of his sources, which is odd, given that he had worked as a news reporter for a number of years before embarking on his quest to collect stories of the weird and bizarre. He does reject one story about a talking dog who disappeared into a puff of green smoke. He expresses his doubt that the dog really went up in green smoke, though he doesn't question its ability to speak.

    Fort did not seem particularly interested in making any sense out of his collection of weird stories. He seemed particularly uninterested in scientific testing, yet some of his devotees consider him to be the founding father of modern paranormal studies. His main interest in scientific hypotheses was to criticize and ridicule the very process of theorizing. His real purpose seems to have been to embarrass scientists by collecting stories on "the borderland between fact and fantasy" which science could not explain or explain away. Since he did not generally concern himself with the reliability or accuracy of his data, this borderland also blurs the distinction between open-mindedness and gullibility.

    Fort was skeptical about scientific explanations because scientists sometimes argue "according to their own beliefs rather than the rules of evidence" and they suppress or ignore inconvenient data. He seems to have understood that scientific theories are models, not pictures, of reality, but he considered them to be little more than superstitions and myths. He seems to have had a profound misunderstanding of the nature of scientific theories. For, he criticized them for not being able to accommodate anomalies and for requiring data to fit. He took particular delight when scientists made incorrect predictions and he attacked what he called the "priestcraft" of science. Fort seems to have been opposed to science as it really is: fallible, human and tentative, after probabilities rather than absolute certainties. He seems to have thought that since science is not infallible, any theory is as good as any other. This is the same kind of misunderstanding of science that we find with so-called "scientific creationists" and many other pseudoscientists.

    Apparently, Fort was a prolific writer. He is said to have written ten novels, but only one was published: The Outcast Manufacturers (1906). At least twice in his life he is said to have burned thousands of pages of notes and writings while severely depressed. Two early works of fiction, both burned, entitled X and Y, dealt with Martians controlling life on earth and an evil civilization existing at the South Pole.When he was only about 25 years old, Fort wrote his autobiography, Many Parts. Fragments of it have been preserved, but Fort himself came to recognize that there is little to recommend it and described it as "the work of an immature metaphysician, psychologist, sociologist, etc."

    One of Fort's amusements as an adult seems to have been to speculate about such things as frogs falling from the sky. He postulated that there is a Super-Sargasso Sea above the Earth (which he called Genesistrine) where living things originate and periodically are dumped on Earth by intelligent beings who communicate with secret societies down below, perhaps using teleportation.

    Fort had very few friends, but one of them, Tiffany Thayer, created the Fortean Society to promote and encourage Fort-like attacks on science and scientists. When Fort died in 1932, he left over 30 boxes of notes, which the Fortean Society began publishing in the Fortean Society Magazine (later Doubt magazine). In 1959 Thayer died and the Fortean Society came to an end. Others, however, took up the torch. The Fortean Times is advertised as exploring "the wild frontiers between the known and the unknown" and features articles on topics such as the government's alleged suppression of evidence regarding crashed UFOs, synaesthesia, a mysterious undersea structure, and other things the editors think are strange or weird. The International Fortean Organization publishes INFO Journal several times a year. It features stories on such topics as anomalous astronomical phenomena, anomalies in the physical sciences, scientific hoaxes and cryptozoology. The Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained (SITU) collects data on unexplained events and publishes a magazine called Pursuit.

    The Anomalist magazine publishes articles on mysteries in science and nature. Strange magazine has articles, features and columns covering all aspects of the anomalous and unexplained. William R. Corliss founded the Sourcebook Project (a catalog of anomalies) and Science Frontiers, a newsletter which has been providing digests of reports that describe scientific anomalies since 1976. There are many other Fortean groups, as well, but it is worth noting that Fort opposed the idea of a Fortean Society. He thought that such a group would attract spiritualists and crackpots."
    Last edited by R_Baird; 02-15-2016 at 06:50 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Let us see what sacred texts has to say.

    They have his books for free! Here is a little introducing his last book.

    "This book, the last which Fort published, deals with paranormal abilities of human beings, such as poltergeists, fire-starters, telekinesis, dowsing, and so on. These accounts are often scraped from the police blotter of the newspapers which Fort used as his primary material, which gives a gritty true-crime feel to this volume. Many of these incidents center around a spooky little girl, today a familiar staple of horror films.

    Fort (never deficient of irony) calls these abilities 'witchcraft.' He also lumps much of modern science, particularly medical science and quantum physics into this category. He proposed that these 'talents' would eventually be acknowledged and placed into use, particularly by the military, an absurd concept at the time. Today in the 21st century, self-professed witches are a major religious movement, the Pentagon (and the Russians) are known to have dabbled in remote viewing, and science is proposing ever more bizarre and (often untestable) theories of everything. We need Fort's sardonic wit more than ever."
    Last edited by R_Baird; 02-22-2016 at 03:00 PM.

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